Wednesday, December 10, 2008

K-Rod/Mets; Wood/Tribe & Sabathia/Yankees

There have been three blockbuster pitching free agent deals in the past 24 hours.

First, Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez and the New York Mets agreed to a three-year, $37 million contract. K-Rod set a ML record with 62 saves during the 2008 season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Rodriguez has pitched his entire major league career with the Angels exploding on the scene during the 2002 post season en route to the Angels only World Series championship.

Back in the fall I predicted the Mets would pursue K-Rod after it was announced Billy Wagner would miss the entire 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. K-Rod, who will turn 27 in January, has compiled 208 saves and isn't even in the prime of his career. However, the Mets middle relief is suspect and they'll need a lot more than K-Rod if they want to reach the postseason after missing it in 2007 and 2008.

As for the Angels, look for them to audition hard throwing Jose Arredondo for the closer's job. If he isn't ready they could move Scot Shields into that role.

The Mets aren't the only team with a new closer. The Cleveland Indians are on the verge of signing Kerry Wood to a two-year contract with an option for a third. Financial terms have yet to be disclosed. Wood has pitched his entire major league career with the Chicago Cubs. In 2008, Wood saved 34 games for the NL Central Champion Cubs. The Tribe is taking a risk with Wood as he has been plagued with injuries throughout his big league career. He even spent time on the DL this season with a blister on his finger in late July and early August. Most of Wood's problems have been with his elbow. He has also had shoulder and tricep injuries. Wood is a hit or miss proposition. The Indians are literally knocking on wood.

Finally, C.C. Sabathia has agreed to sign with the New York Yankees for $160 million over 7 years. Sabathia had turned down a contract offer from the Yankees worth $140 million over 6 years. Sabathia won the 2007 AL Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians. In the middle of the 2008 season, the Tribe dealt Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers where he won 11 games and led them to their first postseason appearance since 1982 although they would be eliminated in the NLDS by the Philadelphia Phillies. Despite his success with the Brewers they could not offer what the Yankees could.

With the retiirement of Mike Mussina and departure of Andy Pettitte, the Yankees needed an impact player. Although I'm not sure Sabathia is the right one. Granted, I didn't think he would be effective with the Brewers so what do I know? I do know that Sabathia is a low key guy who would be better suited pitching with a National League team in California where he can swing the bat. I think Sabathia will be out of his element in New York the same way Randy Johnson was during his two seasons in pinstripes and was only too glad to return to Phoenix.

Given the Yankees didn't make the postseason for the first time in 15 years there is a lot of pressure on Sabathia's right shoulder. Although the Yankees might not be done with acquiring starting pitching as they are interested in both A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, who pitched with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively. The addition of Burnett or Lowe will relieve Sabathia of some of the pressure but unless the Yankees sign a marquee player like Manny Ramirez, Sabathia will have a big target on his back and I'm not sure pitching in Cleveland and Milwaukee has adequately prepared for life in the Big Apple.

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